The Sinfonia, Rondo and Scherzo in Winter

In winter there is no need to hibernate, no need to even slow down —  get out and enjoy the warm music at Heinz Hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. This evening we were treated to a Sinfonia, a Rondo and a Scherzo, and more.

George Walker’s Sinfonia No. 4, “Strands” begins with one fell swoop, one grand note followed by various forms of ‘dah da da’ as the movement fully commences. A quickly paced, suspenseful and pulsating march proceeds throughout various measures, continuing as if through the fray. A metronomic beat pulses the syncopated rhythm, woven intricately within the harmonious and sometimes dissonant orchestral drama. At various moments I visualize steps, as if quickly approaching. The rhythm and beat are memorable, and I relish in a bit of momentary cello which is fleeting as the orchestra quickly returns to the selection. When it ends there is a standing ovation for the conductor, the PSO and especially for the composer, who is introduced on stage. I am truly impressed with Mr Walker’s composition.

Gil Shaham, Violin. Wow, not only is Mr. Shaham great with the Mozart “Turkish” concerto, but he performed a most amazing encore along with the PSO, the most magnificent display of dexterity I can honestly say I’ve ever seen. The bow moved so fast on the strings I couldn’t even imagine what it takes to accomplish such a feat of skill. During his playing he would occasionally step in toward the conductor. At that moment the acoustics of his violin would change because of the different angle, it was an interesting phenomena to witness.

During intermission Mr. Shaham signed autographs. I asked about the encore. He told me it was called “Nihavent Longa” – his arrangement of Turkish folk music which he said dates back to the eleventh century.

Arild Remmereit’s conducting exhibits a subtle approach, seemingly never imposing, yet effective in keeping the orchestra in perfect synchronicity. With Symphony No. 1 “Winter Dreams”, his conducting style seems apropos, because this symphony is elegant in it’s simple melodies, yet not without the ‘Allegro’ sound that a Tchaikovsky symphony is known for. I think of this composition as a cross between a symphony and his Nutcracker Suites. One can definitely tell it’s a symphony, not unlike his others; yet I hear in the simple melodies sounds that are reminiscent of the Nutcracker. At times it is also complex; in the second movement I hear 3 different threads of music intermingle at the same time, not just melody and harmony, but more. The third is a Scherzo, one of my favorite styles, and this is in 3/4 time. Anyone found snoozing will find the final movement as an eye-opener with a magnificent conclusion.

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